Purdue athletics begins fundraising campaign to manage upcoming shortfall

“It will be significant. It’s a daunting financial challenge"

Mike Carmin
Lafayette Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE – With no football in the Big Ten this fall, Purdue – and other athletic departments in the conference – are going to suffer financially.

The figure from athletic director Mike Bobinski - $50 million hit - if no football is played during the 2020-21 academic year. Even with a potential spring season, schools might be able to generate media rights and ticket sales but not enough to cover the upcoming fixed costs. 

Purdue announced Tuesday – shortly before the Big Ten said it was postponing fall sports – “More than a Game,” a fundraising campaign to support the athletic department. The department is working in partnership with the John Purdue Club.

Mike Bobinski, Purdue Athletics director speaks during a dedication ceremony for the Tyler Trent Student Gate, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette. Tyler Trent, the Purdue superfan that drew national attention, lost his battle to bone caner on Jan. 1, 2019. September 7 would have been his 21st birthday.

“People continue to be really generous and supportive,” Bobinski said prior to the Big Ten’s announcement. “They understand these are circumstances that given our funding situation - where we stand on our own two feet here - without the activity-based revenue that we rely on, we find ourselves in a very challenging situation.”

The challenge is going to be overwhelming since the Big Ten’s announcement.

“It will be significant. It’s a daunting financial challenge,” said Bobinski, who called the timing of the announcements a coincidence.  

NO FOOTBALL:Big Ten Conference cancels 2020 football season

According to the school’s press release, those who support the campaign will receive additional John Purdue Club priority points:

  • Three priority points per $100 for all cash gifts until June 30, 2021.
  • One priority point per $100 for all remaining pledge payments scheduled between June 30, 2021 and June 30, 2025.
  • JPC members will automatically receive two points per $100 for their annual gift made between May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. Contributions to the campaign are in addition and will not count towards John Purdue Club memberships.
  • Pledges of $5,000 or more will have their names immortalized outside of Mackey Arena at the conclusion of the campaign. The size and scope of the recognition will be determined by individual donor generosity.

Wisconsin is another Big Ten school that has announced similar fundraising efforts. Athletic director Barry Alvarez said the department could lose $100 million if there’s no football. Penn State could suffer similar financial losses.

“We’re going to have to rely on every potential source of outside support that we possibly can to keep it together so we don’t have to make drastic, program changing adjustments that will set us back for potentially years to come,” Bobinski said. “We’re working hard, and we believe people will be responsive and appreciate the message.”

The campaign may not take care of Purdue's financial commitments. Bobinski said Tuesday that the athletic department will need a loan or another financial arrangement to "bridge that gap" due to the lack of revenue. 

"With all that we do, there will still be some gap that will have to be covered and that will have to be in the form of some type of financing arrangement," Bobinski said. "I don’t know what the source of that might be. As we work through it, I feel fairly certain that will be a necessity."

Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email mcarmin@gannett.com and follow on Twitter @carmin_jc